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Issue #1583      February 27, 2013

Socialism and the path to Socialism – Vietnam’s Perspective

Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, has paid an official friendship visit to Cuba and given a presentation at the Nico Lopez Party School of the Cuban Communist Party. Following are excerpts from Party leader Trong’s presentation.

Socialism and the path to socialism is a fundamental and practical theoretical topic with broad and complicated content, demanding thorough and in-depth study. I hereby mention just a few aspects from Vietnam’s perspective for your reference and our discussions. And several questions are focused: What is socialism? Why did Vietnam choose the socialist path? How to build socialism in Vietnam step by step? How significant has Vietnam’s renewal and socialism building process been over the past 25 years? And what lessons have been learnt?

As you know, socialism can be understood in three different aspects: socialism as a doctrine, socialism as a movement, and socialism as a regime. Each aspect has different manifestations, depending on the world outlook and development level in a specific historical period. The socialism I want to discuss here is a scientific socialism based on Marxist-Leninist doctrine in the current era.

Previously, when the Soviet Union and its constellation of socialist countries existed, striving for socialism in Vietnam seemed logical and implicitly validated. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialist regimes fell in many countries and the worldwide socialist revolution began to ebb. Now, the cause of socialism has been revived, sparking widespread interest and heated debate.

It is true that capitalism has never been more widely accepted than it is now, and it has achieved great successes, especially in liberating and developing productive capacity and advancing science and technology. Many developed capitalist countries have established social welfare systems which are more progressive than ever before, thanks to strong economies and long struggles by their working class. However, capitalism cannot overcome its inherent fundamental contradictions. We are witnessing a financial crisis and economic decline which originated in the US in 2008, rapidly spread to other capitalist centres, that has impacted every country around the globe.

In addition to this economic crisis with its related food and energy crisis, a depletion of natural resources and deterioration of the environment are posing great challenges to the existence and development of humankind. These are the consequences of a socio-economic development process which champions profits, considers wealth and material consumption the measures of civilization, and makes individualism the main pillar of society. They are the essential characteristics of capitalism’s mode of production and consumption. The ongoing crisis once again proves that capitalism is anti-advancement, anti-humanity, and unsustainable economically, socially, and ecologically. As Karl Marx said, capitalism damages the things that constitute its wealth, namely, labour and natural resources. The current crisis cannot be completely resolved in the framework of a capitalist regime.

Recent social protest movements flaring up in many developed capitalist countries have exposed the truth about the nature of capitalist political entities. In fact, democratic regimes which follow the “free democracy” formula advocated and imposed by the West never ensure that power truly belongs to the people and for the people – the natural factor of democracy. Such a power system still belongs mostly to the wealthy minority and serves the interests of its major capitalist groups. A very small proportion, as small as one percent of the population, holds the majority of the wealth and means of production, controls the financial institutions and mass media, and dominates the whole society.

We need a society where development is truly for humans, instead of exploiting and trampling on human dignity for the sake of profits. We need economic development in parallel with social progress and fairness instead of a widening gap between the rich and the poor and social inequality. We need a society which yearns for progressive and humane values, a society of compassion, unity, and mutual assistance instead of rivalry for the selfish benefits of individuals and groups.

We need sustainable development and harmony with nature to make our living environment clean for present and future generations, instead of exploiting, appropriating resources, infinitely consuming materials, and destroying the environment. And we need a political system under which power truly belongs to the people, by the people, and serves the interests of the people, instead of a wealthy minority. These are the authentic values of socialism, aren’t they?

As you comrades and friends know, the Vietnamese people have undergone a prolonged, harsh, sacrifice-filled revolutionary struggle against colonialist and imperialist domination to win national independence and sovereignty in the spirit of the slogan “There is nothing more precious than Independence and Freedom”.

National independence associated with socialism is the basic guideline of Vietnam’s revolution and the essential point of Ho Chi Minh’s legacy. His rich experience combined with the revolutionary theories and science of Marxism-Leninism led Ho Chi Minh to the conclusion that only socialism and communism can create a truly free, prosperous, happy life for every person in every nation. Advancing to socialism is the objective and the inexorable path of the Vietnamese revolution, harnessing the people’s aspirations and historical trends.

But what is socialism? And how does one advance to socialism? This is what absorbs our thoughts - finding our way step by step, creating orientations and guidelines which fit the specific circumstances of Vietnam.

Political Affairs  

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